Cardiff University Distinguished Lecture: Democracy and the Science Communication Environment

17/02/2014, 17:30 - 19:00


Speaker: Professor Dan Kahan, Yale Law School

Dan Kahan is the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology at Yale Law School. He is a member of the Cultural Cognition Project, an interdisciplinary team of scholars who use empirical methods to examine the impact of group values on perceptions of risk and science communication.

Lecture Abstract:

Promoting public comprehension of science is only one aim of the emerging “science of science communication”. But, this lecture will argue, is likely *not* the most important one for the well-being of a democratic society.

Ordinary citizens form quadrillions of correct beliefs on matters that turn on complicated scientific principles they cannot even identify much less understand. But why do they fail to converge on beliefs consistent with scientific evidence on certain other consequential matters—from climate change to genetically modified foods to compulsory adolescent HPV vaccination? This talk will suggest that it is not the failure of scientists or science communicators to speak clearly or the inability of ordinary citizens to understand what they are saying. Rather, the source of such conflict is the proliferation of “antagonistic cultural meanings”.

This talk will propose that—understanding how the “science communication environment” works, fashioning procedures to prevent it from becoming contaminated with antagonistic meanings, and formulating effective interventions to detoxify it when protective strategies fail—these are the most critical functions science communication can perform in a democratic society.

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University Distinguished Lecture Series